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Braves Should Start Simmons Over Pastornicky in Battle of Rookie Shortstops: A Fan’s Take
The battle for the next Atlanta Braves starting shortstop is currently being waged in spring training by two 22-year-old rookies, projected starter Tyler Pastornicky and the oncoming Andrelton Simmons.
At the beginning of spring training, it looked as if the starting job at shortstop, recently vacated by Alex Gonzalez, who signed a free-agent deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, belonged to heralded minor leaguer Tyler Pastornicky. However, the recent emergence of fellow rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons has shaken up the outlook for the 2012 Braves starting lineup.
So far, the numbers speak for themselves. Simmons, who has been getting the recent starts, has been hot from the plate and strong with the glove in Grapefruit League games. He has played a lot more in the past few days as his stock has risen with the Braves coaching staff, which is presumably taking note of his solid glove and rocket arm, not to mention his ability in the 8th-hole of the lineup.
Meanwhile, off-season projected starter Tyler Pastornicky has had considerably more plate appearances but has not hit at all. Plus, he has had several errors, with most of his inconsistent defense coming despite good fielding and involving his accuracy to first base, something rookie shortstops are known to struggle with at times. That also makes Simmons stand out as a potential starter because his throws to first are dart-like missiles.
The main area of concern in determining a starter for opening day appears to be experience. Although neither player has ever played in a major league regular season game, Pastornicky has two full seasons above Class-A ball. Simmons, by contrast, has only one year in High Class-A ball, having played shortstop for the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League in 2011. He played short-season rookie ball in 2010 after being drafted in the second round out of Western Oklahoma State Junior College that year.
After seeing the Hillcats in action several times during Carolina League play last year, I can personally attest to Simmons' athletic ability and potential. He, along with two fellow Braves recruits—Joe Terdoslavich and Todd Cunningham—that were invited to spring training, were the bright spots for the underperforming Hillcats last year. Simmons was voted the league's best defensive shortstop, most exciting player, and best infield arm. He also claimed the league batting title, hitting .311 after starting out the season going 4-for-32 in the first eight games.
While Pastornicky is likely to pan out as a good major league player eventually, I'd love to see Atlanta give Simmons the start. The Braves could catch lightning in a bottle as they did with Freddie Freeman last year and Jason Heyward the year before, and find that Andrelton Simmons is the next Braves star in the making.
Jeffrey Weeks was born in Athens, GA and has been a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan.
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